Remembering Our
Danube Swabian Ancestors

Donauschwaben Villages

"Helping Hands"

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.
In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead


Diana Lambing
Horsham, England

Uihei Village Coordinator

The Collected Works of
Diana Lambing


“I have always found that a sense of humour
 will get you through anything.” 

Mover & Shaker
by Rose Mary Keller Hughes, DVHH Correspondent.
Published at
20 Nov 2005 by Jody McKim Pharr.

Our latest interview is with a person most of you know in a variety of ways. Diana Lambing is our English Donauschwaben sister who has come forth many times to translate something for us.  Diana, I have learned, has a great joy for living and a wonderful sense of humor.  So, with great pleasure, I bring you this interview with Diana... 

Diana, where were you born?  We know you live in England but some of us don’t know if you were born there. 

I was born on 28th July 1949 in Brocket Hall, a large country house set in acres of grounds near Welwyn in Hertfordshire, just north of London. The manor house, owned by Lord Brocket, had been used as a maternity hospital during, and just after, the war.  

What brought your family to England?  Some of us in North America were ever so sure that our Donauschwaben ancestors came either to the US or Canada - we have learned differently from having you and others as our list friends.

My mother was a young Swiss woman who had come to England to work as a children's nanny near Welwyn. My father was an ex-prisoner of war, originally from Uihei in the Banat.  He had joined the Romanian army as a musician at the age of 17, and after seven years had switched to the German army in 1943, when all the Donauschwaben men were given the opportunity to do so, i.e. when Hitler needed more cannon fodder and looked to all ethnic Germans living outside Germany to fill this need.  Dad later said that changing to the German army was the best thing he ever did, as most of his

Nikolaus Lambing (1933-1947)

 old mates who stayed in the Romanian army were sent to Siberia and never heard of again. Romania changed allegiance in August 1944; so all ethnic Germans in Romania were now regarded as the enemy. My father gave himself up to the British army when he was in Austria in 1945, running away from the advancing Russians.  He was then taken to a camp in Italy, where there were many other German prisoners, and later shipped to England as a prisoner of war in August 1946. 

My parents met one day in January 1948 in Welwyn, when my mother was in town with three other Swiss girls, and my father and his fellow prisoners had been allowed out of the nearby camp for the first time.  As both groups were speaking a German dialect, they all got to know each other.

My parents married in February 1949 and we all lived in a small gypsy caravan in a field for the first few months of my life, until Dad spotted an advert in the local paper where an old London double-decker bus was up for sale. 

He bought the red London bus, painted it green, had the wheels removed, fitted a makeshift door to the entrance, and at weekends and evenings would fit out the

Diana in front of the bus

bus to make it as habitable as possible before Christmas 1949.  It was parked at the edge of a field, next to a wood and close to where he worked as a market gardener.  We had no running water or electricity, but photos from that time show us all as being happy. My brother Roland was born in September 1950, and the four of us continued to live in the bus until autumn 1952. 

We moved to our first proper house, which was a tied cottage* belonging to the estate of the next aristocratic family that Dad worked for at Shuckburgh Hall in Warwickshire.  All ex-prisoners of war were allowed to work only on the land, i.e. in farming or gardening, for several years after the war.  In 1954, my second brother,

Nicolas, was born, and in 1958 we moved again to a sweet little 18th century stone cottage in Lincolnshire, where Dad still worked as a gardener to a titled family. Our last move in England was in 1961 to Leicestershire, where my youngest brother, Peter was born. 

In 1963, the whole family visited my mother's family in Switzerland (she hadn't seen them since our last visit in 1951 when we lived in the bus). All her brothers and sisters persuaded my parents to immigrate to Switzerland, as prospects were better there at that time.  We would live in the old family house with my Swiss grandfather.  And so our family left England in March 1964, much to my dismay.  I did NOT want to leave my friends and the grammar school I attended, and was desperately homesick for England all the time I lived in Switzerland (five years).  However, I survived!  We children were thrown in at the deep end and had to immediately start school in the German part of Switzerland, not knowing a word of the language (maybe not quite true, as I could say yes and no, and I could count to ten!). We lived with my Swiss grandfather for a year, but his dislike of my father caused problems, and we finally had to move elsewhere in the village. 

In 1965, my grandmother from Uihei was finally allowed out of Romania for three weeks to visit us.  She had not seen my father for over 20 years.  The following year, my grandfather from Uihei was allowed to stay with us for three months.  In 1967, our whole family visited Uihei for the first time, staying for six weeks during the long, hot summer. 

What was your schooling?  Anything about your work history you would like to share?

By 1968 I had finished my three years apprenticeship (Kaufmännische Lehre) at a sort of library for schools, and attending college part-time, and had now got a job in Basel working for the chemical firm CIBA, using my knowledge of English.  Basel was a cosmopolitan city and I met several English-speaking people while living there.  In 1969 I finally escaped!  I had kept in touch with several old school friends and managed to get a lift with an English lorry driver from Basel back to England, where I then headed for Brighton (on the south coast) to be with an old friend who was now at Sussex University.  I was home!  Life was wonderful—I had lots of money, which I had earned in Basel, and living in England was very cheap at the time.  I spent the summer on the beach, and traveling around Europe with new-found friends.  I ended up living in Brighton for several years, taking mostly easy office jobs (I wasn't a hugely career-minded. person!) 

Did your parents remain in Switzerland?  Are they still living?

During their 14 years living in Switzerland from 1964 onwards, they managed to save enough money to buy themselves a brand new house in England when they came back here to retire in 1978. 

Peter, Trudi, Nick & Diana, Victoria Station London 1978

They exchanged that house for a bungalow in Horsham (where Hugo and I live) about 15 years later, and after Dad died in 1998 my mother bought a ground floor flat (what you call an apartment, I think) instead.  Four years later, when property here had rocketed in value, she traded in her flat for yet another flat, but this one was in Switzerland! So, at the age of 78, she uprooted herself yet again and moved back to Switzerland, to be with her remaining brothers and sisters, and also her three sons and four grandsons. Meanwhile, I remain firmly rooted in England!

Dad's ashes (he was cremated) were scattered in his favorite park near here, watched by the resident herd of deer, which he loved.  If I had started my family research just a couple of years earlier, I would have taken some of the ashes back to Uihei. 

Family Photos:

Are you married or do you have a significant other in your life?  If so, would you like to tell us anything about you and your other half?

Diana & Hugo

After a couple of relationships, I eventually met my soul mate, Hugo, and we have been together for 20 years.  His father is from Romania, too – an ethnic German from Transylvania – and lives literally around the corner from where we now live, in Horsham, about 20 miles north of Brighton. Although 90 years old, he is still very

mentally alert and always enjoys reading all the Banat books I order (and rarely have time to read myself!).

Are you still employed or retired?  What are your interests and  hobbies?

For the past 25 years I have earned my living as a freelance, self-taught traditional signwriter,** although most of this work is now done by firms using computers, so I have a lot more time to devote to my other work and hobbies.  I recently started a pet-sitting service, as both Hugo and I adore animals (we have no children), and the rest of my time is currently taken up with genealogical research for the whole village of Uihei, with choral singing, which I love, and I am also a musician for a Morris Dance side (traditional English folk dancing).  I had to give up acting with our local theatre group after 15 years, and also playing the clarinet, as there just weren't enough hours in the day!  I've been spending a lot of time doing translations in the past three years, too – mainly from German, but also some French.  Plus, of course, running websites for four DVHH villages, although one has now been taken over by Nick Tullius, and I am only keeping the one site for Uihei regularly updated. 

What got you started in doing genealogical research; what year did you begin (approximately)?

I started doing genealogical research about five years ago. Hugo had bought our first computer in order to listen to Internet radio.  I was playing around with some old photographs on the scanner, which featured my father as a young boy in America (he lived in Philadelphia for five years between 1922 and 1927 with his parents and several relatives before returning to Uihei).  Just on a whim, I searched for Ellis Island on the Internet, thinking this would have been where the ship would have docked all those years ago. To my amazement, I found that the organization had just started to show ships manifests on the Internet.  I typed in my grandparents' names, and was amazed when the actual typed and handwritten manifest showed up on the screen, with 24 columns of information about the family!  [Interviewer:  I think we can all relate to the thrill of seeing our first manifest for family come up on the screen!] 

I then found the Banat List and eventually got Sorin Fortiu in Timisoara to trace my family line, which he did. Since then, the Grossjetscha Ortssippenbuch has been published, and my family can be traced back four generations through this. 

I am currently working on a Family Book for Uihei, as the Bogarosch Family Book (which would include Uihei as a filial parish) is yet to be published, and I would like there to be a separate book for Uihei anyway!  

Diana looking at church records

Have you been successful in your research?

I have been incredibly lucky in my Lambing research, as three other researchers from the same line have been beavering [Interviewer:  What a great verb!] away in different parts of the world. One person is Bernadette Heringer, who lives not far from Bickenholz in the Lothringen region, where my ancestor who migrated to the Banat had previously lived.  She has done a tremendous amount of research in her area and has supplied me with several original church records of our family, mostly in French.  Another lady in France has managed to trace the family back even further, when our family lived in Buire, a village in the Picardie region of northern France.  The third person is Orvill Paller, whose wife is a Lambing, too.  As luck would have it, Orvill actually works for the Family History Library in Utah!  He has been amazing in supplying printed copies from the microfilms which record all our family events, including the ones from Buire which are written in Latin and French, showing that our oldest known ancestor was born in 1606. 

Our own family line has a very good chance of carrying on for several generations, as two of my brothers have produced two sons each.  They all live in Switzerland, but as two of them have an Ethiopian mother, and have already been to see their maternal grandmother in Africa twice, our family name may well end up spreading to the African continent! 

Do you use software for recording your family information–if so, which one?

Not being very good at using the computer, I have always kept track of my family tree on paper, rather than relying on the computer.  Maybe just as well, as when I DID use software, I lost everything when our computer was changed!  However, I have now put everything about our Lambing history onto my Uihei website at under 'Lambing' in the menu. 

Who of all your ancestors has made the biggest impression on you?  Why?

I think it has to be Sondag Lambing (also known as Demange or Dominik), probably because I have been able to track his life from when he was born in Bickenholz in 1731, right through his marriage to Jeanne (aka Anna) Schütz and their first six children being born in Bickenholz, before following the route they took when the family migrated to the Banat in 1768.  Soon after they arrived in Grossjetscha, their fifth child (my direct ancestor, Joannes Michael) was born, and later three more children were born.  One of my favourite documents is the long marriage record between Sondag and Jeanne (Anna), and his lovely signature!  I love collecting all the different signatures of my ancestors. 

What has been your most remarkable find in your roots research? Has your world opened in that you have found living relatives you didn’t know existed?

One of my best finds is that my grandfather had a younger brother who was born in Uihei in 1896 (these records have not been available to view in Romania), and who had immigrated to America.  Having already found out that my grandmother, Susanna Lambing née Engelmann, had a sister, Anna, in Philadelphia—I have a photo of this sister with her husband who was from Grossjetscha, plus several of their 16 children (!), and also with my father and grandfather on the photo—I was contacted by a lady in Philadelphia who was convinced I was related to someone she knew.  For months, I doubted her claim, especially when she talked about me having a sister (which I don't have!).  Finally, I received a letter in the post from a Dorothy Lambing-Conlan in America, with several photographs attached.  I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a photo of myself and my youngest brother (with curly hair, hence the assumption he was a girl) taken in 1951!  There were pictures of my grandfather, too, from his time in America—he was actually the godfather to Dorothy's sister.  And then there were pictures of his younger brother, Matthew, whom I never knew existed, and his whole family.  Finally, there were two pictures of my Lambing great-grandparents in Uihei, which I had never seen.  [Interviewer:  Yes, those are the goosebump times when something special like the photos arrives!] 

We know you have visited your ancestral village—is there anything you’d like to tell us about that experience?

When I visited Uihei in 2004 for the first time after 35 years, I found my grandparents' grave and was thrilled, as I had only seen it in a photograph.  Once I began to notate every grave in the cemetery, I also found the grave of my great-grandparents, which was a wonderful discovery. When I went back this year (2005), I realized that another grave next to that one was that of my great-great-grandparents!  

Yet another 'discovery', although a bit of a long shot, is that of Denis Lambin (Dionysius Lambinus), born around 1516/1519 and who died in Paris in 1572.  Although we are not sure if, or how, Denis Lambin is related to our line, it certainly seems a possibility as he was born in Montreuil-sur-Mer in Picardie in northern France, which is the region where our first known Lambing ancestors came from.  He was a French humanist, famous for his editions of Latin authors, and I have a book of letters written by him in Greek and Latin, which have been translated into French. 

What were some of your family traditions that were practiced when you were a child that today you realize were part of your Donauschwaben heritage?  Do you still practice any of these traditions today? 

I don't remember any particular traditions that our family practiced which were from our Donauschwaben heritage, although it's possible there were one or two without me realizing they weren't English traditions.  However, I do remember Dad using several words and phrases throughout his life, which as a child were mostly gobbledegook to me, but which I later realized were true schwobisch words. 

Do you have a motto you live by?  Will you share it with us?

I have always found that a sense of humour will get you through anything. 

Are there sites or references that have been helpful and that you feel would be of benefit to the DVHH members?

Of course, there are numerous helpful sites in German, and I have found several HOG websites helpful in my own research—for example those under - but one needs to be able to read German.  I also regularly check the ZVAB antiquarian book site.  I think the DVHH site covers pretty much everything that one needs, though, and I'm always amazed at how much Jody (McKim) has been able to put onto the site.  I just wish I had more time to check it out regularly! 

If you were confined to only one tip you might give a fellow researcher, what would it be?

Once you have been researching for a couple of years, go back through all your old notes. What may once have seemed insignificant und unimportant may well prove to be a vital clue later! [Interviewer:  Oh, that’s so true!] 

If you were creating a family crest, what images would you include and what would they represent?

A lamb, representing gentleness and my love of animals – and, of course, linked to the English word 'lambing', which however has no connection to our family name! An oak tree as a symbol of our strong family roots (and I have always loved trees, anyway). A wavy blue line, symbolizing the rivers and oceans dividing our families.

Interviewer:  how’s this for your crest?

Thank you, Diana, for sharing so much with us - both in this interview and in your presence on the DVHH list - you are, indeed, a Shaker and a Mover! 

*A 'tied cottage' is one that belongs to the employer, i.e. is part of their estate. It's part of our historical feudal system, whereby the wealthy aristocracy owns large areas of land and all the buildings on it--  usually a grand country house, plus stables etc., and several 'tied cottages' in which the serfs or workers lived. The cottage came with the job, which was generally working on the farm or in the gardens of the estate, or as a butler or maid in the grand house.

**As a signwriter, I would sometimes design a sign from scratch for a client, as well as carry out the actual painting of it.  Other clients would have a vague idea of what they wanted, and I would put their idea into reality. Others would know exactly what they wanted and would supply the artwork, so all I needed to do was the physical painting of the sign. I would signwrite vans, shop fascias, trade boards, house signs, estate agent signs, honours boards for schools and clubs or societies and occasionally other commissions such as murals, boats, or painting in the carved-out names on war memorials.  I would sometimes need to build the framed wooden signs myself, which would test my carpentry skills!  However, since the advent of computers most of the work is now done by them, and instead of traditional painting skills they now use adhesive vinyl which is just cut out by machine and stuck onto the background.  A signMAKER, as opposed to a signWRITER, would supply the other types of signs, for example 3D plastic or metal or illuminated letters and signs etc.

Crest design by Rose Mary Keller Hughes

Diana & the DVHH ...

See: The Collected Works of Diana Lambing

Diana is a member of the Original DVHH Administration Team, which focuses on decision making and planning for the DVHH project. 

Thank you Diana for your contributions to the DS community and the DVHH Project!

Diana is now retired, 16 Aug 2020.

[Published at 30 Sep 2020 by Jody McKim Pharr]

Last updated: 31 Oct 2020